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‘They are really afraid’: Fears about Covid-19 are complicating care for patients with sickle cell

· Press

Last November, just as the novel coronavirus was beginning its deadly trajectory through China, the sickle cell community in the U.S. was celebrating. Two potentially transformative drugs for sickle cell had just been approved by the FDA and clinical trials involving cutting-edge gene therapies were well underway.“One of my colleagues called it ‘The November to Remember,’” recalled Biree Andemariam, chief medical officer of the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America and founding director of the New England Sickle Cell Institute at the University of Connecticut. “Literally, just before the pandemic hit, we had infused our first patient with one of the new drugs. And then everything stopped.”While the coronavirus is affecting everyone, it has hit those with sickle cell particularly hard. Not only did the pandemic temporarily stop clinical trials and the introduction of new drugs, it made accessing care for sickle cell — which can be challenging even in ordinary times — far more difficult. Because sickle cell damages the spleen, people with the disease are considered immunocompromised and at high risk for serious complications from Covid-19.

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